From Snow to the Snows — in June

Our final full day in Utah was spent on the ski/snowboard slopes at Snowbird. Yes, it was June 10. Let me say that again. June 10. And we were at the slopes. Can you feel hear my heart beating faster? Oh the joy of that day!

The altitude got to Chris a bit (on his fourth run of the day), and he was pretty wiped out after a mogul run 🙂

Lauren and I enjoyed the festival below as the guys boarded and skied.

We wrapped up a perfect day by heading back home and having a lovely dinner out. On the way home we saw a mini-cyclone. Since it didn’t seem to hurt anyone, we thought it was pretty cool. Later that evening we were treated to a view of the strawberry moon rising. So beautiful!

Sunday morning was sad. Don’t be fooled by those smiles in the pics. It was super hard saying goodbye to this incredible couple. We miss them so much already. That entire visit was a gift beyond words.

last day together

One last cup of coffee together. Then time to hit the road.

On Sunday, as we drove, I was forced to admit that if I ever do this trip again, I won’t even attempt to work in the car in Wyoming or Nebraska. The Internet was super sketchy–even with Cricket and Verizon hotspots. Thank goodness for good hotel wi-fi’s and a job with flexible work hours!

Sunday night was spent at a hotel in Nebraska — at a hotel that I will be fine never visiting again. Good news though. If you ever forget your key there, you can get into your room in less than half a second with a credit card 🙂

Monday found us spinning the tires towards friends/co-workers in Missouri. While the day started out nice and sunny, it changed. We didn’t experience any of the tornadoes that were appearing around the country that day (for which we were thankful), but driving was a bit tricky at times, and the hail was pretty loud.

bad weather

In the evening we made it to the home of the Jason and Kristen Snow. They are my co-workers, so many of you might have already met them if you have an upgrade and have used the WordPress live chat options. They also have a fabulous blog. They are nomads so we were lucky to catch them home. In fact, they left shortly after we did for their next Grand Adventure. How we love these two and their three dogs!

I’ve been told by many people in my life that they have never seen people like us. We work super hard then we stop on a dime and play hard. It’s all about balance. My co-workers seem to live by this standard as well.

We relaxed for an evening, slept, then all hit our work super hard for a full day. Barely a sound was heard as Chris did his art, I worked on mobile support for WordPress apps, and Jason and Kristen had meetings and worked on live chat and email support. One of their dogs cuddled close to give me moral support, and I loved it.

The company we work for is distributed, so the hundreds of workers at Automattic work all around the world, anywhere there is Internet. That is how I can literally work on the road as Chris drives. As long as I have Internet connection.

We get together with co-workers a few times a year (hence the Lisbon meetup I still haven’t written about, but I will. At least you know I was in Lisbon for that reason by this point if you follow the blog). But it’s a real treat to work alongside co-workers live in a small-group situation. Many peoples’ norm. Our anomaly. And we learn so much from each other. Very fun day.

Once the work time was over, we took the dogs for a walk to a family/dog-friendly brewery in the area. Talk about delightful! It was hard picking the perfect brew so we all got different flavors and shared sips.

I think my favorite story about this place is that they really celebrate mother’s and have a special day for moms every year. But they have that special day after Mother’s Day so there is no conflict with family celebrations. Love that!

One of the Snow’s dogs was interested in watching children play, another was resting, and the third spent its time eeking up on the bench and as close to Jason as possible. This cracked me up so I made an animation (staying away from the word gif on purpose to avoid controversy). Is this the sweetest thing or what?

Dog kiss

Seriously. Just look at the love. Heart melt!

dog love

We spent the evening at a burger joint that still has me salivating. But I forgot to take images. On the walk back home, we humored Chris by going on Rte 66. As the song says:

Well if you ever plan to motor west
Just take my way it’s the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66…

The next morning we rose relatively early and went to a fantastic coffee shop before leaving. This place has bands and church services at times, I hear, and it also has the best muffins I have ever eaten. Can’t believe I didn’t take a pic. I’m seriously slacking on my job.

Our plan was to drive to Columbus and spend the night. We drove through some hairy weather again, saw a massive fire (I’m guessing from some of the super-scary lighting we saw), but pushed on through to get to Houghton because our car was making some interesting noises.

Remember how we were worried about its making it through the trip? Yeah. We remembered that, too. We churned into Houghton at 3 am ET after 16 hrs of driving (Chris totally rocks. I was working about 9 hrs of it. He did all the driving). After sleeping a few hrs, we crept off to our home in northern NY. And made it!!!!

Back to Mom, my lack-of-beach, and local rainbows.

Now we are closing the chapter on the out-west trip for the year and starting to plan our next life adventures. Starting with a new-to-us car hunt. Anyone have a Honda Fit and/or Chrysler Town and Country you are trying to get rid of? You know how to reach me…. 😉

Strong Winds in Utah

This is why we did not go skydiving today. Too windy!!!

This is why we did not go skydiving today. Too windy!!!

So we didn’t go skydiving. But as you can see in this picture, at least it wasn’t a borderline call. It was very clear that it would be a poor choice for the day if we expected to  see a tomorrow (spoiler–we all wanted to see tomorrow). So no go. Now we have something to look forward to again in future visits.

But we got the local tour instead, and  it was fabulous. Ever since CJ was a baby, he was obsessed with trains so he took us to a treasure of a restaurant he found in Heber City. Trains everywhere (and yummy burgers). Even the servers had train hats.

After lunch we went up  Guardsman Pass, which had just opened after being closed all winter. The drive was a bit harrowing for those of us who have a hard time with heights (no guard rails, and lots of twists and turns with huge drop-offs), but CJ drove well, and it was breath-takingly beautiful.

At the top we enjoyed the views then went for a small hike further up and threw a few snowballs. Gotta love doing  that in June!

I think the most humorous part of the day might have been seeing several snowmobiles  hanging out on the side of the road. We wondered – is that in case there is a freak storm? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Snowmobiles in summer. Waiting for a freak storm?

Snowmobiles in summer. Waiting for a freak storm?

The Best Laid Plans

Packing the carReally long post about our Utah adventure with lots of pics starting at the Enjoying the Trip for Real section below (click that link if you want to jump straight to that section).

We had a good plan. A great plan, I dare confess. But you know what they say:

 

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry

Originally our plan was this: Columbus, Ohio, then a hotel as we headed west, wherever we were, then Utah then Vegas, then California, then New Mexico, then a hotel somewhere, then Illinois, then South Carolina, then North Carolina then Maryland, then West Virginia, then back to Houghton, then home.

All in four weeks. This was all part of our Anniversary travel plans.

Now? – Hotel in Iowa, hotel in Wyoming, CJ and Lauren’s in Utah then hopefully a hotel somewhere then Missouri then a hotel somewhere then Houghton then home. Or maybe just a flight home.

It started changing a bit ago. We realized that California and Vegas might be better in a later trip, but we would decide that last minute. Then Ohio and New Mexico friends had some life happenings that made it a less-than-ideal time to visit.

No problem. We re-routed, but that made us hit South Carolina at a bad time for the people we were visiting there. So we shuffled, and all was kind of working out for Plan B, but the trip was getting shorter. Still fun, though.

On Thursday we left our home in northern NY with a carefully loaded vehicle, as we headed to our home in western NY, initiating our Grand Adventure.

We had items from the north house coming to the west house for the annual Memorial Day yard sale. This was carefully separated from items we were going to bring to Hudi and Zeb as we stopped at the camp they were working on at the tail-end of the Grand Adventure. And this was all topped off with items for CJ and Lauren, who we were going to visit near the beginning of the trip.

It was clock-work. From Thursday to Wednesday, we held the yard sale at the western NY home and did a bit of cleaning, and I did a ton of socializing. While I am happy living where I live now, it’s good to see my old friends again. On  Wednesday I drove over to Lauren’s family and picked up the wedding gifts that were set to make a cross-country trip to their owners. The plan was to leave at 4am on Saturday so we could get well beyond Chicago in daylight.

Thursday we continued to clean and socialize, then topped off the day by attending the WordPress meetup in Buffalo — we used to be regulars there before our move so it was nice to be back. Then Friday morning we loaded the car with our gear, the gifts for the Utah folk and with Hudi and Zeb’s belongings. It all went so smoothly I was able to visit more friends in the afternoon, knowing everything was in order.

Since I  had a full load, I drove slowly and smoothy, and all seemed idyllic as I pulled into the driveway and parked. We had a lovely last evening and got to bed early. By 4:10am  (yes, a little late), we closed up the house and headed out to the car, ready for the Grand Adventure. Only to find out that a horrible noise was emanating from under the hood. Chris checked it out and all of our power steering fluid was gone, aside from a few drips.

Nothing we could do about it in the dark so we went back to bed for a few hours. Later Chris checked it out (and those of you who know Chris know that if anyone can fix a car, it is he). No go. The trip was officially getting pushed off. I called a car rental, and they told me they had a car for us and would come pick us up. We planned to leave our own vehicle at a local place to get repaired. Plan C.

Then we got a phone call half an hour later. No rental available until Monday, and we were out of the pick-up zone. We’d have to get ourselves there. No problem, Fortunately the car was not dead in the water. We just had to keep pumping fluid into it. Plan D – Drive to the car rental, making sure we were there  by 8am when they opened to maximize our traveling time for the day, then drive back home, re-load the new car, drop our car at the repair shop so it could be fixed while we were gone then head out (hopefully by noon).

As a weekend worker, it didn’t faze me all that much. I just worked in the house instead of the car as originally planned. And this gave me the chance to see some of my friends one last time in church and on my daily walks. When I came back from Saturday’s  walk, it was only to discover that Chris had driven to the town half an hour away to get some necessary car parts for a patch repair. Things were looking up again. Plan E. We hoped to leave on Sunday. But that was not to be, either.

The patch worked in that the leak stopped, but the pump began having issues. The car was speaking languages I had never heard before. Not ideal.

Plan F – back to the rental option. But now we’re thinking  about it more. How can we make this more cost effective? The first move was obvious. Cut out the second half of the trip. No southern route. But how do we get the gear to Zeb and Hudi? That worked itself out. Friends of theres were driving down in a couple of weeks for a training, and they graciously agreed to take the essentials to our boys.  Then the car itself. We needed to rent an SUV since we were taking a bicycle out to Utah, but we could get a cheaper car on the way back. Or we could fly back to Syracuse then  grab our truck and head back to the western house another time to deal with our car. So many options.

Monday morning hit with questions still on our mind. At 7:10 we prepared to drive out to get the rental. Chris started the car, and it made no noise at all. No leaks, no pump issues. Nada.

Being  the tightwads that we are, we entered Plan F. Pack only our personal essentials in case we had to fly home, grab the kids’ presents and hit the road. After all, Chris pointed out, there isn’t a whole lot of turning between NY and Utah. It’s a pretty straight shot. Still, we planned on coming straight back after Utah since the car would most likely not stand up to the twists, turns and hills of the south.

All was great until Cleveland, OH, where the car began some very loud protests. We needed gas anyway so we limped off the road. When we re-booted the car a bit later, all was fine again. I did have the thought that perhaps the air conditioning we had on put too much stress on the engine. So we kept the air off and put down the window.

Enjoying the Trip for Real

I have to say that Plan F is a winner so far. We had planned to drive 8-10 hrs that day, but felt so energetic we easily hit 13 hrs and settled in a lovely, very affordable hotel for the night (yay, hotels.com!). Same deal the next day (except maybe 11 hrs of driving). Chris met wonderful people in the breakfast room (I was sleeping), and he heard then shared with me some fun travel tales, and we felt the camaraderie unique to road warriors. It makes me look forward to more time traveling by car in my future.

Chris particularly liked celebrating signs of Omaha and listening to the Counting Crows.

And I loved the windmills.

Windmill

We both loved the sculptures we saw  along the way.

The trip was blessed for sure. We were about 20  minutes ahead of the rush-hour traffic in Chicago (we saw it in our rear-view mirrors), had perfect hotels along our path, met friendly people, and dodged flooding (storms on the front and side of us, but not where we were). When the sun could have been pretty intense and challenging, clouds appeared and gave us shade. We even got a rainbow leading us to our hotel on one occasion. Perfection. The hotel doesn’t look like much outside, but it was very  pleasant inside.

Uncle John and CJ would have loved the trains by us.

The scenery was getting more and more incredible, and the queues were under control at work so I asked my team-mates if they minded if I took the day off. They quickly gave me their blessing. (I have the best job on the planet.) So we spent Wednesday gawking out the window, marveling in the beauty of creation from the greens and purples of sagebrush to the browns, whites and reds of the sand on the hills, amidst rock formations that rivaled the work of any sculptor I know. A crowning glory? The snow-capped mountains in the distance, which set my soul free.

Even better, each turn of the wheel was bringing us closer to CJ and Lauren. And the car was making it through the trip!

CJ was at work, and we had to drive right by the work-place on our way to their home so we stopped in only to discover that he was about to sign out  for the day. We were able to grab a bite to eat with him before he headed out to Salt Lake City for a Virtual Reality event, where he was demo-ing the game he has been working on with his co-workers. I was going to take a picture of him, but didn’t want to embarrass him in his work zone. Now Chris and Lauren say I should have.  Oh well, next time 🙂

Chris and I headed to the house to unload the gifts and reunite Lauren with her bicycle and the hatchet that Hudi gave her at CJ and Lauren’s wedding.

bicycle delivery

Yesterday we hiked the Stewart Falls trail with Lauren while CJ worked again. Aunt Anne would have loved the waterfalls.

Here’s a slow-motion view of those glorious falls:

I did a little bit of damage to my knee making going downhill a bit tricky on the way back. It was pretty funny. We were panting along, red as anything, trying to not limp too much (while going downhill, mind you. Not up-hill), and occasionally stepped aside while people grinned a “thank you” and RAN by us going up-hill. Talk about humbling.

My favorite quote of the day was from Chris:

We are cross training. Crossing our fingers and hoping we make it to the car.

After that hike, we walked through town a bit then stopped at this vintage ice cream place that I just loved. The ice cream rivaled European gelato. Not to start a fight. Just subjectively sayin’.

We were a  bit dirty when we got home so we cleaned up and rested (well, Chris and I rested. Lauren went off to choir practice). The kids came home at 9:30 or 10 and we yakked until midnight then I turned into a pumpkin.

Today we were supposed to go sky diving then tonight we were going to go swing dancing with friends. Sadly, the sky-dive place shut down due to high winds, and the swing dance plans fell through (might be a blessing with my knee pain), but you know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s so awesome being with CJ and Lauren it just can’t go wrong. So instead of high-energy adventures, we are yakking, blogging, reading, and finding homes for the wedding gifts within this flat. Very nice.

I realized that since CJ has been working for most of this visit so far, I don’t have pics of him. Here’s one to rectify that (who has morning hair? lol):

IMG_3098

Now we have all taken off work for the rest of the visit so we can enjoy time together. And that, my friends, was the beginning of our Grand Adventure. The big question is — will the car make it home? Time will tell … That adventure begins on Sunday.

Sun, Sons and Snowboarding

img_0743

After Friday night’s snow who would guess that we would be sipping coffee on the deck Saturday morning? Even better, we were sunbathing by the afternoon. It was over 50 degrees. We slept in, yakked, read, took naps and basically took the day off as a quasi spa day. Pure luxury.

In the evening we headed over to Zeb’s to check out his new home.

Zeb is in a pretty fun living situation now. He’s with CJ’s pre-marriage housemates who also happen to be delightful young men from the area where our boys grew up. Aaron and Thomas and Zeb made some delicious coffee (can you tell we are big on coffee?) and yakked with us until Robert and Anthony came home. Then we chatted a bit more and started playing a game called QuipLash. Anyone with Internet could join our game if they had to code, and the guys decided to call Hudi (back in NY) to join the fun. That made me really happy — knowing my boys wanted to hang out together, even long distance.

After a really enjoyable evening we headed home to get a good night’s sleep. The next day was busy. We went to Lauren and CJ’s church (a church with a view!) then grabbed some pizza and headed off to Solitude for some slope time. It was interesting since we were on borrowed/new-to-us equipment, but we adapted pretty well and had a fantastic time. The road getting there was winding and kinda crazy. There were definitely rocks in the road on the way down that weren’t there on the way up. And it was wild how we had snow, but half an hour away, there wasn’t any.

As the day wound down, we settled in with some nice drinks and tv time.

Monday was our last day there 😦 And we were far from ready to go. But the good news is that we plan to travel back next summer. Sadly, CJ’s car had been backed in to over the weekend so Chris and CJ spent most of Monday finding repair shops to get quotes. Lauren and I worked on websites, read and yakked.

img_0817
She made me one final drink (a mint hot chocolate thing this time with white mocha or something. Yum!) then we headed to a burger place they enjoy as we headed back to the airport. Our flight left at 11:59pm, and Chris’ birthday was the next day – beginning one minute into our flight 🙂 The screenshot of the plane is when were were pretty close to flying over their home on our way back to NY.

That trip was fortunately uneventful, and we were home in plenty of time to unpack, plow out the driveway, clean the house and have a birthday celebration thanks to Mom Pollock.

I took the next few days as AFK so we had time to rest up and get our life back in order. And here we are. Back in the flow of our reality, and loving it. With a ton of new fantastic events stashed into our happy memory arsenal for times when we miss our kids and want to look back on times together.

 

Fireside Dining

This meal deserves a post of its own. Our Christmas present from Lauren and CJ was dinner at Fireside Dining at Deer Valley last Friday night. I don’t know what was more impressive. The ambiance or the meal itself. I do know the best part was the company (and that’s saying an awful lot ‘cuz the food and ambiance were phenomenal).

img_0699

We drove up snowy roads. Up and up and up, well past the World Cup hill where participants were wrapping up their tricks. The snow fairies were fluffy and swirly, creating shimmering reflections off the lights that decorated trees all along our path. It felt like Christmas again 🙂

As we stepped into the lodge we were greeted by a host who brought us into the dining room. A room that serves as ski lodge by day and ambrosial offerings by night. A huge fireplace crackled on one wall, while another wall was filled with large windows that looked out on a idyllic winter scene. A horse-drawn sleigh went by at regular intervals, completing the picture. (If you look really hard, you can see it in the background of this clip — going from right to left.)

What did we eat? Oh, what did we eat!!! There were four fireplaces, each in a different room. All our hot food was cooked on the fires. Our menu was very similar to this (we had boar rather than quail, and there were minor other differences):

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-4-43-57-pm

Ready for your mouth to water? Check out some of what we ate:

Chris topped off his meal with an espresso. Divine decadence.

img_0717

The snow was piled high as we headed home to rest.

What a perfect evening and wonderful gift. I will treasure this memory forever.

Utah Trip Day 1

img_0680I got waaaay behind on sharing our Utah trip, and I’d be willing to put money on the fact that most of you would fully support me on that. It’s because I was having so much fun relaxing with/enjoying the company of CJ, Lauren, Zeb and their friends. And even some of my friends 🙂

We arrived in Salt Lake City late Wednesday night. With only one slight incident. As we gazed in awe of the lights of the city, we noticed that the airport seemed a bit close for our altitude. Right when we should have been descending rapidly, the plan dropped suddenly then swiftly began an incline. Weird. It was enough to get an audible gasp and/or “whoa” from nearly everyone on board. For about five minutes we were stymied as we watched the airport slip behind us as we inclined. Then the pilot came on and announced that the landing was too tight so we were trying again with more room. Whew!

I had warned my husband that in a particular book he was reading there was a deep analysis of an airplane crash, and I recommended that he not read that part in flight. Apparently he forgot and was right in the thick of that chapter when the excitement occurred. Talk about timing!

CJ and Lauren were there to meet us, and they gave us a night tour of their world as we drove to their home about 45 minutes away.

Now CJ is a ski instructor at Deer Valley and he taught enough lessons to people with altitude sickness to realize that we might want to stay off the slopes our first day there. It was so delightful, sleeping in and chatting while we sipped Lauren’s amazing coffee.

Late morning, we headed back to Salt Lake City to check out a very pretty mall. It was right around the corner from where I had gotten my tattoo two years ago. I stopped in to see if I should have it touched up (that had been recommended to me by the artist two years ago).

While my artist was not available, her co-workers agreed with me that it still looks great and doesn’t need touching up, even two years later. Well done, Mina from Cathedral Tattoo!

At the mall we signed up for a Virtual Reality appointment at the Microsoft store, gazed at fish swimming near stores, enjoyed a fountain display.

Then we spent some time playing with Virtual Reality at the Microsoft store. It was truly amazing. I felt like I was petting a whale, I created 3-D drawings that I walked through, and I shot lasers at incoming alien robots that were attacking me. I’ve done VR in my living room, and this definitely took it to a new level for me. Fun!

After we went home, we played a bit more with our own living room games, and Chris and I took turns riding on a VR roller coaster. Curazy! Love it!

img_0651

We topped off the day by picking up Zeb from his house ten minutes away then going to Cafe Rio, where we met my fabulous co-worker, Velda 🙂 We were having so much fun that they practically closed the place down around us. As we said our goodbyes, CJ and Velda traded some Pokémon.

What a glorious kick-off to our almost-a-week of vacationing with our progeny.

Drama With Delta

Delta is my favorite airline to fly. Generally flying with them is seamless and pleasant, in my experience. But recently we had a glitch.

Note: That featured image is from a flight a couple of years ago. This is our weather today:

img_0496

 

Here’s the story:

Today Chris and I are headed out to Utah to see CJ, Lauren and Zeb (and to ski and snowboard, and see some co-workers, and …you get the gist of this.) We are on vacation!!!!!!

The incredible company I work for (Automattic) encourages us to take off when we want, and when I mentioned this trip, is was beautiful to see how team-mates shuffled work-loads around to cover my work while I am gone. In addition to getting to take of time whenever we want, we are very flexible on how we schedule our time on a day-to-day basis. I chose to put in a few longer days over the weekend so I was officially AFK by 1pm yesterday.

You know that incredible feeling of freedom when you close out of work to go on vacation? Even when you love your job? That’s what I was feeling as I joined my husband and dog for a walk at the beach. As we walked, Chris and I talked about how whether or not we should offer to get bumped if the situation arose (we discuss that before every trip). I commented that it would be really good to come up with a plan this time since Delta is recovering from a computer glitch and might still be trying to find places on flights.

Feeling like I should get packing, I cut the timing short.

As soon as we got home I went to check in with the airline and discovered that there were no tickets for Chris!!!!

Back-tracking a bit here. Last April I chose to get bumped from a flight and received a $700 voucher to use on flights within a year. Chris and I had planned to drive out to Utah for this visit, but as winter storms started hitting, I chickened out, and we decided to use the voucher for flights to visit the kids young adults. In early January I discovered that I couldn’t get those tickets online so I called Delta. Informed that only I could use the voucher, we paid for Chris’ ticket separately (BOGO is better than nothing). I checked my email and saw the confirmation came through.

**Note to future self – actually open and read confirmations in the future**

So back to yesterday.

When Chris’s ticket didn’t show up on the page no matter how many times I refreshed, I checked out that confirmation. Sure enough. Only my name was on it. I looked at every credit card statement I had and realized we were never billed for his flight. I looked at our points from credit cards and airlines to see if we paid in travel miles anywhere.

Nada.

My pulse was seriously rising. I think my Apple watch thought I was working out, but it was simply sheer panic.

I work in tech/customer support, and I know what it’s like to be on the other end. Sometimes no matter how much you want to help someone, it just isn’t possible. I was about to call Delta, asking where my husband’s ticket was, with no proof of purchase, no credit, and no recording of the conversation I had when I purchased my ticket. And I was doing this right on the tail of their own computer crash as they were re-appropriating other passengers. Talk about horrible timing.

Before calling, I looked at options and realized we still could get Chris a flight, but it would use up almost all our saved points. Or we could shell out $1,1oo. Definitely not optimal.

Generally when I call Delta, I use their regular customer service #. In the best of times, I get put on hold for a minute then request a call-back, and they contact me 30-90 minutes later. I braced for a longer wait time based on circumstances and tried to do some yoga breathing to calm my racing heart. Then I saw a spot on their website that had a number to call if you had a skymiles # (which I did). I called and got help in less than 30 seconds! I explained the situation, and it was no problem at all. They apologized for any confusion and booked Chris on the same flights as me, and even used the rest of my voucher for it! I’m still a bit blown away by that.

So my panic turned to praise. And the entire ordeal took two hrs. (Over 90 minutes of that was my own panicking and hunting for proof of what had happened.)

Once again I am reminded of why Delta is my favorite airline, and I look forward to getting on my flight today. Especially since I get to see our kiddos on the other end 🙂